Chase Hansen is a college dropout. He had no choice. His parents were killed in a car accident and he had to come home to take care of his younger brother. Discovering their parents’ debts are more than the life insurance can cover, Chase now has to deal with grief, a brother who’s acting out, and needing a job where he’ll make enough money to support them. One day, Chase’s best friend, Gavin, drags Chase to a unique job interview…and a strip club where women (and the occasional man) come to blow off steam with their friends.
Noah Carpenter has always dreamed of being a doctor. He begins to doubt himself when he blacks out in the ER when a married couple is brought in…one DOA and the other dying on the table. On top of that, he’s become unhappy (I’d go so far as to say apathetic) with his relationship with his live in boyfriend, Rob. That, in itself is rough, but it gets worse when he arrives home one night to find Rob in bed with another man.
Picking himself up by his boot straps, Noah resumes his status quo until the night of his best friend Chelsea’s bachelorette party…at a male strip club. It’s there he takes an interest in one of the dancers, “The Professor.” Chelsea notices and pays for Noah to get a lap dance, and it turns out to be the hottest thing he’s ever done.
Chase finds himself attracted to the man he dances for, and he does what he’s never done before…slips the man a note to meet him when he gets off shift. Things turn hot in the limo, and Chase and Noah discover they have a real chemistry, not just the hormones of a one night stand. Things aren’t easy for them, though. Work, Chase’s brother, the hospital, and a few misunderstandings get in the way. Now the men must decide if what they have is worth fighting for, or if they should just let go of what might be the best thing they’ve ever had.
I really liked As I Am. I’ve read several books where one of the MCs is a stripper and I’ve grown fond of the trope. They’re often misunderstood, broken men who have been through a lot. They’re not necessarily hoping for a handsome prince to come and rescue them, but when that actually happens, they can become unsure of themselves and whether they’re worth of the love they’re getting. This is what happens here. Chase was stripping because the money was better than working flipping burgers or cleaning offices. His parents are dead, and the last time he spoke to them, it was a fight. His brother, Benny, is dealing with his own mess, and they clash. He just wants to do right. I felt for him…especially about his last communication with his parents. Chase was one of those characters who just needed a hug and a shoulder to cry on. I wanted to be that shoulder.
As much as I loved Chase, I really loved Noah. My parents were nurses, so I pretty much grew up in a hospital. I was taught to be respectful of the doctors, but I eventually discovered that, while they deserve respect, they’re just people. People who have lives outside the hospital. For Noah, that life was lonely and sad. I have heard all sorts of stories of patient losses, so I was able to identify with Noah. I also happen to know a bit about being cheated on, so…yeah, there’s that too. Once again, we have a man who just wants to do right by people.
I don’t want to give away too much of the story because I thought it was good, and I think the book should be read in order to be enjoyed. Let me just touch on a few things, and you can get busy loving Chase and Noah the way I did.
First of all, their relationship begins with sex. I had no problem with this. I know some people frown upon that, but it fit the story and their personalities. Both men needed something, and that something was a comforting connection. It was hot and they clicked, but the base of it all was that comfort. Speaking of hot, every single sex scene with Chase and Noah was smokin’! From the lap dance on the stage at the club, to the limo, to the first night they spent together, it was off the charts. The author was able to give Chase and Noah and intense chemistry, and it was amazing!
Along with the chemistry, there is a fair amount of angst. Not enough to make me start skimming pages, but enough to make me feel sad and frustrated. Both men had crises of worthiness. Chase lives in a dumpy apartment, dances for a living, and takes care of Benny, so he’s afraid he won’t fit into Noah’s life. Noah has a huge apartment, money in the bank, and drives a Mercedes. Noah discovers what we all know, and had known since the beginning. Because of that, he feels like Chase won’t want to be with him when he finally finds out. These issues are resolved in a relatively short time, but the drama involved will satisfy readers who love angsty stories.
The background characters are important to the book, but they’re not over the top or in the way. I didn’t particularly care for Gavin at the beginning. He was a pretty big ass, but he did fall in line eventually. Rob was almost stereotypical as the loser boyfriend (and coincidentally, the brother of Chelsea’s fiancée, Alex…awkward). Chelsea and Alex were sweet and supportive, and Chelsea had just enough of the whole nosy female BFF. Benny was amazing. He ran the gamut. He was an angry, grieving seventeen year old who had to face the loss of his parents and the loss of the home he was raise in. He came back strong, though, and he became supportive of Chase and a fan of Noah.
The ending tied up neatly, and I was immensely satisfied. It was on the predictable side, but that was just fine by me. Being surprised is nice, but sometimes, I just need a nice, comfortable ending that makes me feel happy. As I Am gave me that happy feeling.
I highly recommend As I Am. It was a lovely way to spend an evening, and I was pleased to be able to read it.